7/3/24 · Law

Online dispute mediation yet to make a big breakthrough

A report by the UOC and the Mediation Centre of Catalonia analyses the use of online mediation and proposes improvements to consolidate its use

Its greater efficiency in terms of cost and time, as well as the flexibility it provides to the parties involved, especially in international settings, are the main advantages of online mediation
women talking

Online dispute resolution in Catalonia is at a very early stage (photo: Unsplash)

When it comes into force, the Spanish Bill on Procedural Efficiency Measures of the Public Justice Service (PLMEP) will make it mandatoryin the civil sphereto try an adequate dispute resolution mechanism before filing a lawsuit in court. One possible dispute resolution mechanism is mediation, and it is hoped that considering adequate dispute resolution mechanisms a requirement for the processing of lawsuits will have an impact on their use.

Online mediation procedures skyrocketed during Covid, but this growth did not continue after the end of the pandemic despite the advantages of digitalization. The Chair in Conflict Resolution, Mediation and Digital Transformation of the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and the Mediation Centre of Catalonia of the General-Directorate for Law, Legal Entities and Mediation of the Ministry of Justice of the Government of Catalonia (2022-2024) have carried out a study on the number of online mediation proceedings in Catalonia and the requirements for their success with the aim of analysing the current scenario, identifying the limitations or obstacles to its digitalization and promoting its implementation.

According to the study, whose results have just been presented, online dispute resolution in Catalonia is at a very early stage. "Online mediation is in practice simply one more option for dispute resolution. However, the evolution or growth observed is not proportional to the comparative advantages of mediation for dispute resolution," said Ayllen Gil Seaton, lecturer in Procedural Law and researcher in the UOC's Law, Internet and Digital Transformation (DITD) group and author of the study. It also highlights the difficulties involved in counting the number of mediation procedures carried out due to a shortage of statistical information and a lack of uniform criteria for all the data available.

The advantages mentioned by Gil can be summarized in the fact that, to the extent that online mediation results in greater availability of time and space for the subjects of the dispute, it is more cost- and time-efficient and provides more flexibility, especially for the resolution of civil and commercial disputes. Specifically, the study indicates that, in certain cases, going online means "a lower financial cost and shorter times than face-to-face mediation". Another strength to be noted is "the flexibility it gives the parties in terms of conducting the mediation, especially in international settings or cross-border disputes. […] It brings people closer together when they are far away," Gil said.

The report also points to less inhibition in communication, no damages and more contact time between the parties and the mediator. Gil added that "in very delicate emotional situations, it can create less tension." Finally, it is a "less stressful" option for people who are more used to new technologies, such as younger people.

“Going online means a lower financial cost and shorter times than face-to-face mediation”

Disadvantages and proposals for improvement

But it is not all advantages. The study recognizes that one of the most common drawbacks is the loss of the "human factor". Furthermore, although it is less stressful for young people, the document recognizes that "not everyone is able to use technological and remote methods, whether for reasons of ability, training, means, equal opportunities or accessibility. […] There is still some resistance to the use of new technologies in dispute resolution," said Gil. Finally, she pointed out that one of the critical aspects requiring special attention is data protection and confidentiality.

As a first step in ensuring the success of mediation, whether online or face-to-face, the report highlights the importance of having the right regulations. Specifically, it concludes that "it is necessary to establish rules and institutions that provide the necessary legal support to effectively protect citizens' rights." The report sets out a series of guidelines to carry out online mediation, and some considerations to promote its use.

Finally, the study carried out by the UOC and the Mediation Centre of Catalonia proposes "drawing up a guide available to citizens on the online management and administration of disputes through mediation, providing advice and recommending platforms and technical tools to implement them effectively". The ultimate goal is "to understand that technology is just another tool for dispute management and to know when and how to apply it," said Gil.

The study on the number of online mediation proceedings in Catalonia and the requirements for their success has been carried out by Ayllen Gil Seaton in collaboration with dispute mediator Josep Maria Corominas and with the coordination of Xavier Pastor Pérez, a member of faculty at the UOC and expert in the resolution of public and social disputes and director of the UOC's Chair in Conflict Resolution, Mediation and Digital Transformation.


This UOC project contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.


The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health.

Over 500 researchers and more than 50 research groups work in the UOC's seven faculties, its eLearning Research programme and its two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The university also develops online learning innovations at its eLearning Innovation Center (eLinC), as well as UOC community entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer via the Hubbik platform.

Open knowledge and the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu.

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